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Parliament House, Canberra, 9.00am, Friday, 20 March 1998: transcript of doorstop interview [tax reform, health, Indonesia, gun laws]



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TREASURER

 

PRESS

RELEASE

 

EMBARGO

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

HON PETER COSTELLO MP

Treasurer

 

DOORSTOP

 

Parliament House

 

9.00am, Friday, 20 March 1998

 

E&OE

 

SUBJECTS: Tax reform, health, Indonesia, gun laws

 

TREASURER:

 

...good tax reform for Australia, how it's necessary to make this country internationally competitive and how it is necessary to look after wage and salary earners. And how it is necessary to give exporters a go and get rid of the black economy and we are going to hear the States views on tax reform as well.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Will the States get a dedicated share of the income tax in a tax ……?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well we had a meeting last year, we asked to States to put forward various proposals, we'll see what other proposal they want to put forward today.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But do you support that idea?

 

TREASURER:

 

As I said, we'll see what they have got to put forward.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Can you find an extra $5 billion dollars for the medicare agreement?

 

TREASURER:

 

Look the Commonwealth's made a very generous offer in relation to health. We've made an offer to increase funding in real terms by 6.9 per cent, 6.9 per cent in real terms. This is a very generous offer. That is above and beyond inflation, a 6.9 per cent increase in health for Australia and what's more a dedicated fund to get down hospital waiting lists. Now the moment that the States agree to that is the moment the money can start flowing to get down hospital waiting lists. There's no need to prolong this or delay it. That is a very generous offer and we can get to work immediately.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is it your final offer?

 

TREASURER:

 

We've made it clear that when Dr Wooldridge went to the Health Ministers' meeting he made the Commonwealths best offer. That is the best offer that the Commonwealth can make on health, any other offer would be an offer to increase taxes.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Why do you think the States won't agree to it?

 

TREASURER:

 

Look this is a very generous offer, I think the States are trying to negotiate more and more money. But this is the best offer that you'll see in a long time and as I said before any proposals to increase over and above a 6.9% per cent real increase in health is just a proposal to increase taxes.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

The Premiers all say the Federal Government has no appreciation of the crisis in public hospitals and the rising costs of health care.

 

TREASURER:

 

Nobody would be more aware of that than Dr Wooldridge and the Health Insurance Commission which is responsible for the overall management of the health system in this country. Nobody would be more aware of it than that. And that offer of 6.9 per cent, that's over and above inflation, 6.9 per cent increase at a time when Commonwealth spending is not increasing in other areas by a fraction of that, is a very generous offer.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Costello, there was a four month old baby in Perth last week who had its elective surgery put off the waiting list is longer than he is, isn't there so nothing crook with the system when that happens?

 

TREASURER:

 

Commonwealth has offered up $120 million to get waiting lists down. The moment the agreement is

signed $120 million. It can be done today, wouldn't that be great if we signed up for $120 million to get those waiting lists down, wouldn't that be great.........

 

JOURNALIST:

 

(inaudible)

 

TREASURER:

 

But wouldn't that be-great if we signed up today and $120 million was made available to get waiting lists down. That would be a great achievement I think and it would be a great outcome.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

You said this is your best offer, but is there any room for comprising at all?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well it's the best offer, that is the offer that's on the table and if it is accepted today the money can start following which would be a great thing.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Are you concerned reports about corrupt projects going ahead in Indonesia despite IMF conditions? There is an IMF report that there are some corrupt projects going ahead in Indonesia contrary to IMF conditions, DFAT sorry?

 

TREASURER:

 

Look the Australia Government's position has been clear in relation to this and it is that Indonesia has to progress the reform package negotiated with the IMF and to the degree that it progresses that reform package money will be available from the international community to try and help the adjustment process. Now it's important that the package be applicable to Indonesia and that be taken into account but it's also important that Indonesia continue with those reforms. These are loans temporary financial accommodation to get Indonesia through the restructuring package and that's what they have got to continue to do.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But does that DFAT report give you second thoughts about the IMF package and Australia's role?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well look I'm not commenting on any reports that I've neither commissioned nor seen but our position has always been the same and we have a fair assessment of what's going on in Indonesia. That Indonesia has to continue with the reform package, that's the important thing.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Treasurer, are you considering financial sanctions against any States that water down the National Gun Agreement?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well look I hope that there is no need to water down the National Gun Agreement. Let's just think back this agreement was put in place in response to the Port Arthur tragedy because the people of Australia demanded tighter gun laws. Nothing's changed since then and I think that we owe it to the victims of Port Arthur and their families to ensure that we maintain faith with them and that we continue with those gun laws to protect people from random violence. Look this is all about protecting people from random violence in Australia and our uniform gun laws are directed towards that task and that is just a very important thing for the people of Australia.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But are financial sanctions an option though if there isn't .....

 

TREASURER:

 

Let's have a discussion and I think that when you see it in that light, you see it as a question of keeping faith with the victims of Port Arthur and their families. There is no case for changing uniform gun laws. Thanks